Q: Summer’s over … now what do I do?
A: Yes, summer is over, and with that comes the end of most of our outdoor gardening activities. Does that mean you should lock-up your tool shed and head indoors for the winter? No! There are still several things to finish up in the garden. Here are several suggested fall garden tasks to keep you nice and busy in your garden.
Did you know fall is the best time to sow wildflower seeds? The seeds will lay dormant over the cold winter months, and bloom for you in the spring. Nothing shouts “springtime” like wildflowers!
Not to be outdone by wildflowers, fall is also the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Daffodils do well here and the deer tend to avoid them. Tulips do well also, but gardener beware, the deer love to eat them.
Fall is also a good time to plant perennials. And, bonus, it’s a great time to get them on sale at your local garden center. You might want to experiment with some new perennials since you won’t be paying full price for them.
Now is the time to rake up leaves and any dropped fruit (if you’re lucky enough to have fruit trees in your yard). If the debris is disease-free, you can compost it in a pile, till it into a garden (it will break down over the winter) or use as mulch around perennials.
Most seasoned Colorado gardeners know that winter can be extremely hard on plants. It gets cold and is often dry. To avoid unnecessary winter loss, it’s wise to mulch around perennials for protection. You don’t have to buy fancy mulch, disease-free leaves or pine needles will do. If you don’t have any leaves, chances are a neighbor will.
It’s a great time to aerate your lawn and don’t forget the winter fertilizer. If you’ve got an irrigation system, you definitely want to get it winterized before the hard frost hits.
It’s a good idea to wrap tender-barked trees, especially those exposed to the south or southwest. The winter sun can do a lot of damage. Don’t forget to remove the wrap(s) in the spring.
Clean-up debris in your vegetable garden. If it’s disease-free go ahead and compost it. If you battled powdery mildew this summer, don’t compost that debris, dispose of it in the garbage. It’s also a great time to add organic matter to your vegetable garden. It will breakdown over the winter and feed your soil. One less thing you’ll have to do in the spring.
If you’ve got tender perennials, you can pot them up and bring them in for the winter. I’ve had success overwintering rosemary indoors, and who doesn’t love fresh rosemary?
Speaking of herbs, if you’re an herb gardener, pick and dry the rest of your herbs. You’ll enjoy their fresh taste all winter long.
Fall is the time to plant garlic. It will sprout in early spring and be ready for harvest about mid-July. If you haven’t grown garlic before, I highly recommend it.
Garden tools are a big investment. Fall is a good time to clean them, before you put them in the garden shed for the winter.
This list is not all inclusive by any means, but it will get you going in the right direction. Enjoy the quiet winter months. Check out gardening books at your local library. Order seed catalogs and get inspired by them. Make plans for next year’s gardens.
Contributed by Jan Roes, Colorado Certified Gardener. Photo by Carey Harrington.